“Bicycles and Automobiles or is it Automobiles and Bicycles”

Trooper Tips By Trooper Gary Cutler

Colorado is a bicycling state; so you either ride a bicycle or at least see bicycles often. You’ll see the casual riders, weekend riders, bike to work riders, and there are also many weeklong and weekend biking tours throughout the state, such as Ride the Rockies, and Pedal the Plains. This means both bicycles and cars need to access the roadways at the same time and do it amicably.  This is accomplished by being courteous to others and following the law.

When you’re out there driving, you need to be aware there are a multitude of things that you need to be watching for; such as animals, pedestrians, bicycles, debris, broken down vehicles, and pot holes, just to name a few.  So let’s talk about bicycles this time.

As a Trooper, I’m often approached by both cyclists and drivers complaining about the other one. Both believe they have the right of way, and they are both right to a point.  Each has the right of way at certain times.  Putting the law to the side for a moment though, just think about it this way; would you want someone doing that to you?  Follow that philosophy and you’re actions will almost always be right.

We have always had laws that govern cycling on the roadway, but recently we have also included laws for drivers when they are passing cyclists on the roadways. Probably the most contentious interaction between cyclist and driver is when they are passing each other when going the same direction.  Colorado state law issues an order that cyclist are to ride as far right of the pavement as safely as possible.  This is their responsibility.  So if there is a shoulder, the rider is required to be on the shoulder and not in the lane of traffic.  Now cars have a part to play in this as well.  Drivers are responsible to give at least 3 feet between them and the biker when passing.

One problem I often see on a two way road is when a car comes upon a cyclist, they will give the required 3 feet distance, but then they will go into the oncoming lane of traffic causing the other driver to slow or swerve to miss having a crash. Drivers are required to yield to both the other cars as well as the cyclist if they can’t pass the bike safely.

Now if there isn’t a shoulder for the cyclist to ride on, the cyclist has the right to use the roadway. Again they are required to be as far right as they can safely ride.  When they are in the lane of traffic though, they are also required to ride single file.  Cars are still required to give that 3 foot buffer when passing the bike.

When a cyclist comes to an intersection and is planning to continue going straight and there is a right turn lane involved it becomes a little more confusing for some. It also becomes a little more dangerous for the cyclist.  In this situation the cyclist is allowed to go in between the lane going straight and the turn lane.  This will possible put the rider between cars.  They will also have to cross the turn lane at some point prior to the intersection to get into the lane going straight.  In this instance, the cyclist is the one who needs to yield to the cars, but a little courtesy from everyone involved will be helpful to make sure everyone is safe.

When it comes to a cyclist needing to make a left turn at an intersection, most cyclists I have observed will stay to the right side of the lane and make a sweeping turn. Drivers need to be observant of the cyclist and try not to pass them when they are turning left with traffic.  This is when everyone needs to be cautious.

A new law that was signed by Governor Hickenlooper, is what’s called the “Idaho Stop” law. It went into effect in August of this year, but each municipality has to opt in for it to be law in their area.  The law allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs, and red lights as stop signs.  It’s a very controversial law and has many critics.  So, know the biking laws in the state.

As one last reminder here is a little known law to the bikers out there, cyclists are required by law to have at least one hand on the handle bars at all times. This is a law that goes unheeded quite often.

I hope this helps everyone while traveling throughout Colorado with knowing how vehicles and bicycles can and need to get along with each other.

As always, safe travels!

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